Two PVUSD trustees cited ‘death threats’ amid Michelle Rodriguez saga. Days later, police say none reported
Trustees Georgia Acosta and Oscar Soto have yet to respond to repeated requests from Lookout about the threats — or any other aspect of the events that led to Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez being fired, then re-hired.
Days after two Pajaro Valley Unified School District trustees said they’d received death threats that led them to rescind their votes to fire the district’s superintendent, local law enforcement agencies say they had yet to receive any such reports.
The Watsonville Police Department, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and Monterey County Sheriff’s Office separately confirmed that no such threats had been reported by — or regarding — trustees Georgia Acosta and Oscar Soto as of Tuesday afternoon.
Acosta and Soto were among the majority of trustees who voted to fire Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez in a surprise 4-3 vote Wednesday. The two were alone in resisting consideration of her reinstatement in a 5-2 vote Friday that followed a wave of support for Rodriguez and backlash against the school board.
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On Sunday, both trustees said they had received threats against themselves and their families during a marathon meeting that ended with Rodriguez’s unanimous reinstatement — and Acosta’s ouster as board president and Soto’s ouster as board vice president. Though they’re losing their positions as officers, Acosta and Soto will remain trustees.
“Myself, as well as some of the other trustees who were part of the ‘4-vote,’ have been receiving death threats against ourselves as well as threats against our spouses and children,” Acosta said at the start of the meeting. “This is very unfortunate and I’m sure a part of why we are here, where we are at today.
“I serve in this position as a community service to my community, however, I have to and will always put the health, safety and well-being of my family as my first priority in life,” Acosta continued. “With that, I will be voting today to rescind my vote regarding the termination of the employment agreement with Dr. Rodriguez.”
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Soto, who was elected to the board in November, said at the same meeting he had received “these very same threats.”
“My family is paramount, their safety, so as a trustee I will continue to support teachers — classified — specifically for Area 3, where I am elected,” Soto said. “But that being noted, I also rescind my vote for the termination of Dr. Rodriguez’s contract. There’s an obvious amount of support, but the risks are greater to follow up with.”
Acosta and Soto have yet to respond to repeated requests from Lookout about the threats, or any other aspect of the events of the past week.
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Threats of death and serious bodily injury can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor under California law, carrying penalties of up to a year in prison. Threats made to compel a public official to perform an official act are an even more serious crime, considered felony extortion and punishable by up to four years in prison.
PVUSD spokesperson Alicia Jimenez said the district is unaware of any record of threats made against trustees beyond the comments at the Sunday meeting, or any law-enforcement investigations into threats against PVUSD trustees.
In a joint statement Tuesday, Rodriguez and new trustee president Jennifer Holm said the district stands ready to cooperate with law enforcement.
“For the trustees who have experienced threats of violence against themselves and their families, we want you to know that you have the full support of the board in pursuing a criminal investigation . . .” Rodriguez and Holm said in the statement. “While we may disagree — however fiercely — that kind of threat should never be tolerated.”